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How Netflix Ruined My Writing Routine

It took a long while before Netflix made an appearance at our house. Before then, I rarely watched TV. I’d have one or two favorites I tuned into once a week, but once Netflix arrived to our home about two years ago, I got hooked. At first I was able to stick to my writing routine, but the idea that limits could be enforced flew out the window the moment I discovered the first episode of the first season of an addictive show: Breaking Bad. How would the main character, Walter White, weasel his way out of all the trouble he got himself into on a daily basis? I waited for what I thought was his true character – an honest chemistry teacher – to shine through and conquer his evil, nasty drug maker and dealer side. I was surprised how fast I got hooked because this show wasn’t even remotely similar to other shows I watched. I mean, Walter White is so different from Laura Ingalls Wilder from Little House on the Prairie!

Once I made it through all the episodes of Breaking Bad, a friend recommended Mad Men. Donald Draper loomed large over the television screen almost nightly. Mr. Draper’s charismatic personality charmed both women and men with his advertising talents, among other things. 😉  During each episode, I waited for what I thought was his true character – a person wanting to show love and be loved – dwindle away. Would he ever find happiness and stop being such a womanizer? You’ll have to watch and see.

As I commiserated to a writer friend about how I was becoming addicted to Netflix, she advised that writers should watch shows to give us ideas to use in our own writing. So I happily continued on while pen and paper waited on the sidelines. Netflix was like a box of chocolates sitting on the kitchen counter. I just had to have one more.

Parenthood became one of my favorites. The drama in the characters’ lives kept me hooked like any soap opera would. Even though there was a lot of arguing between the grown brothers and sisters, their young children, and the grandparents, it helped them resolve or work through the many problems they had to deal with. The series taught me a bit about autism since one of the children and an adult struggled with the disorder.

Heartland, a Canadian drama TV series about a family living on a horse ranch, was recommended by another friend. Finally, back to my Little House on the Prairie roots in a modern sense, I enjoyed seeing the beautiful scenery of Alberta and watching how Amy helped the traumatized horses get back to their normal lives. With a more relaxed story line, I was able to nod off and figure out what happened without hitting the rewind button. (This show is still in progress.)

At first, Switched at Birth didn’t seem like it had a realistic plot because the teenage girls that were switched ended up living close together after one of the daughters figured out she wasn’t her parents’ biological child. However, I enjoyed how the show brought up everyday problems of teenagers and how their friends and family found solutions. The series also shows the problems deaf teenagers and their families deal with and viewers might even learn some sign language along the way. (This show didn’t have a true ending, and I am not sure more episodes are forthcoming.)

The Tutors, a show about King Henry VIII, is a historical drama. This one had me Googling events to see if what was happening was factual. I ended up learning a lot about history but had to cover my eyes during the gory torture scenes. I kept waiting for the king’s life to get better, but I knew not to expect a happy ending.

Reign, a show about Mary, Queen of Scots, also captivated my attention. Even though we might think the life of a queen would be luxurious, it doesn’t look like a job for the weak and timid. I’ve read this show is not true to actual events, but it does seem to follow some of the life events of this queen. If you listen closely, you will hear modern tunes played by the orchestra. (The next episode will soon air on regular TV on the CW network.)

Doc Martin, a show which takes place in a seaside village in England, ends up being the one that gave me the most laughs. The small town scene helps the viewer get acquainted with the quirky characters of the village. I wonder if the grumpy doctor will figure out how to have a more pleasant bedside manner and be able to keep his wife and son close to his side. (Doc Martin has six seasons on Netflix. The seventh season will hopefully arrive to Netflix soon, and the eighth season will be its last.)

Now, all I have to do before I get back to my writing routine, is to get through the first season of Stranger Things, a new Netflix original series. The children in this show are what keep me watching. Will they find their missing friend? What worlds will they have to explore to find him? Will they find out all the mysterious super powers of the girl, Eleven?

All this busyness of keeping up with what’s on Netflix could have possibly ended up with a writer creating about five books the size of War and Peace!  I’ll never be able to catch up to Netflix, but maybe I can catch up on my writing.

After nourishment, shelter and companionship,
stories are the thing we need most in the world. ~ Philip Pullman

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Better Than a Rat’s Tail

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Lila & Kona

I thought Lila, our dog, looked fine, but we kept hearing comments about how she looked “plump” or “overweight” or “is she getting bigger?” which made my heart feel sick since my husband and I make a point of exercising her regularly. Last summer, it also seemed like her energy level decreased.  Then, last November, we noticed her tail looked like a rat’s tail.  There were big splotches of fur missing.  We thought she might have a thyroid problem so we went to visit the vet.

Doc felt her fur and agreed that it didn’t have the luster that a Labrador’s coat usually has. Lila stepped on the scale, and her weight was the highest it’s ever been even though we cut back on her food.  The vet took a blood test to see if Lila had a thyroid issue, and sure enough, a few days later, he called to tell us that she needed to go on thyroid medication. We were surprised, since no one else in the family has a thyroid problem.  😉

Last weekend, Lila had another checkup, and when she hopped on the scale, she was 12 pounds lighter. Doc and his assistant were surprised to see that she lost so much weight since her now luxurious fur can make her look a little puffed out.  “Her fur is so soft.  She looks like a stuffed animal,” the assistant said.  Her fur is as soft now as the day we brought her home, and thankfully, Lila’s energy has increased too.  Doc would like her to lose a little more weight because it’s hard on dog’s joints and they can get arthritis if they get too heavy, so we’ve been instructed to cut back a little more on her food.  Of course, we’d never let her get too skinny, and she wouldn’t let us do that either, but I’m hoping the sticks and whatever else she munches on in the backyard don’t have a lot of calories!

Now with spring arriving, Lila’s beautiful coat is shedding and blotches of fur are showing up on the carpeting, but the fur loss is not as bad as it was before she went on medication.  Seeing the fur on the carpet is so much better than looking at a rat’s tail!

Kept Me on My Toes

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Bauer

Bauer’s nose was causing trouble when he stayed with us a few weeks ago. That nose was pointed up high in the air and steered him to a couple of adventures. Bauer has stayed with us before while his master was away, and those times went pretty well, but this time, Bauer seemed more hyper than usual. I just thought he was hungry, but I later found out that wasn’t the case.

We’ve known Bauer for about three and a half years now. The first time my husband and I met Bauer, we were visiting our son Matt at his apartment. Our son found Bauer at an animal shelter in a small town in northern Minnesota. Bauer was very happy to meet us. He wagged his tail and jumped up to greet us, but there were times when he growled at us too. The first time he growled at me was during our visit when he was sitting on my lap. I tried to change the way he was sitting because it was getting uncomfortable. He growled when I held his front legs and put them in a different position. I growled back, but that didn’t scare him like his growl scared me!

As the years passed, we’ve found that the more Bauer gets used to us, the less he growls. Now, Bauer only growls at our dog Lila when Lila gets too close to Matt or me. I guess he likes to have us to himself. Lila has slowly gotten more used to Bauer too. Lila just moseys along like she didn’t hear anything. She doesn’t hide in other rooms when Bauer’s around anymore and doesn’t lose lots of fur like she did when Bauer first started visiting us.

Bauer is very attentive when I cook. As I worked to get things ready during this last visit, he patiently sat close just waiting for some morsel to drop. When dinner was over and the dishes removed from the table, Bauer hopped up on a chair and onto the table to help make sure no messes were left behind. While the dishes were being cleaned off and placed into the dishwasher, Bauer watched carefully to see if anything fell where it shouldn’t. Just as everything was cleaned up and I thought I could sit down to relax, I heard Bauer clawing away at the cupboards where the garbage can is stored. That’s when I figured out that Bauer could break the rubber bands that held the cupboard closed and that the chopstick that I placed in between the handles didn’t work too well either.  The next day, I bought a childproof lock that worked so well I didn’t want to bother with it every time I had to throw something away. Instead, I used a temporary garbage can in the garage, and Bauer found out how to get into the Tupperware cupboard instead.

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Bauer is a Beagle and Blue Heeler mix.

One night, Bauer was going crazy after our daughter Katie came home from work. Katie brings home lots of bags with papers and books and things to help her prepare for her next day as a teacher. Bauer kept sniffing at one of those bags. Katie said there wasn’t any food there, so I believed her. When I was getting ready for bed, I looked to see if Bauer was where I last saw him.  He wasn’t, and I heard funny noises coming from the dining room.  When I found Bauer, he was clawing and chewing away at a granola bar. Half of the granola bar was gone by the time I got there, and I sat and watched him enjoy the rest of it. I learned from previous experience not to get in the way of a dog and his food – especially Bauer’s.

Thankfully there was no chocolate in the granola bar, and Bauer seemed so happy to go to bed after he found that treat. Except his stomach told a different story the next morning when I found a puddle of something dark had soaked into my comforter. (No other dog has been allowed to sleep in our bed, except this one!)  Bauer threw up the following morning too, right on the sheets. All the bedding got a good washing those two days. I think the second mishap occurred because I fed him too much the day before. I thought with his nose going 60 miles an hour everyday trying to find more food meant he was hungry, but I was wrong. Too many treats from me caused that last unexpected outburst.

After those two unfortunate incidents, Bauer wasn’t so hyper any more. I was happy about that because if he was going to keep up those shenanigans, it was going to drive me crazy with the way he kept me on my toes all the time. It seemed like we were getting used to each other until the next day in the kitchen. Bauer gave me another surprise when he jumped up and grabbed onto a white container with his paws. The container dropped to the floor. Inside was a piece of lasagna that was supposed to be my dinner. I watched as he gobbled it down, licking the container clean. I wondered if lasagna would cause another upset stomach, but it didn’t. The only one who was upset was me because I didn’t get to enjoy the lasagna.

We’ll never know why Bauer seemed so out of sorts at the beginning of his visit, but it might have been because he had a little separation anxiety.  When Matt came back from his trip, and I told him about our adventures, Matt just said, “He’s smart.” Matt and Bauer spent another day with us, and the next day, the two of them got ready to head back to their home.  I watched the car back out of the driveway like I always do. Matt waved good-bye, and Bauer stood on the front passenger’s seat with his front paws leaning by the bottom of the window. He waved his farewell by swinging his tail back and forth while looking my way, and I thanked God we all survived!

Even though that little creature and his nose kept me on my toes, I think it’s funny how I can’t wait for both of them to come back for another visit. I hope it’s soon.  🙂

They Think I Dressed Them Weird

Christmas Picture of Girls

It seemed like such an easy plan, but the process completely wiped me out. The idea was to take a trip to the mall to get the girls’ pictures taken. The baby was only a month old, and I didn’t think it would be a big deal to get both children ready all by myself. The pictures had to be taken in time to be given as Christmas presents and sent out as Christmas cards. Well before that day arrived, I decided the outfits should match and that Laura would wear a dress. Since we didn’t know the gender of our baby before she was born, I made Katie’s outfit using one of my favorite patterns – a one-piece ensemble. I used a red, stretchy cotton fabric for the bodice and cuffs and booties to match. The rest of the outfit was red, blue, and white plaid.  Laura’s dress was the same plaid material with lace added to the hem and with a frilly collar sewn to the top.

After the girls were in their outfits with their shoes and baby booties in place, winter coats, hats, and mittens all where they belonged, I remembered the red bows. One bow was attached to a barrette for Laura’s hair and the other was a ribbon to get stuck on top of Katie’s fuzzy head.  I attached the bow to Katie’s hair with some sort of gooey stuff that was invented for just that purpose!

By the time we got to the mall, I was feeling less stressed and happy to be among the crowds of people. We hung out there for a long while on our first of many shopping trips together.  Luckily the bows and everything else stayed on for the adorable pictures.

Sometimes when our three kids look at old photo albums together now, they tell me that they think I dressed them weird. Doesn’t every older kid say that? Isn’t it because the fashions change? Probably it was because I didn’t dress them most of the time. I let them wear what they wanted . . . (Just saying!)

Anyway, luckily Laura and Katie think this picture is a cute one!  Looking at it brings back a lot of great memories, and I’m especially thankful I remembered the bows!

Hiding Among the Trunks of Towering Trees

The minute my husband walked into the door last Monday night, I could tell something was wrong.

“Lila really got into something,” he said. He did not look happy. They had just come home from their walk, and according to my husband, Lila, our dog, was covered in something disgusting.

“It can’t be that bad,” I thought to myself because Lila’s not one to get into too much stuff.

“We have to give her a bath. She couldn’t go back in the van. The van is still down by the park. She’s covered with whatever it is she got into.”

Lila can get into a bit of something small in the yard, and she rubs her neck into the offending odor. Like that’s not good enough, she turns to rub the other side of her neck into it too. Usually, it’s not that bad and we can’t even tell she’s trying to smell like something else. This little routine usually happens after a bath, but it’s been a few weeks since she’s had one.

Since the hoses are tucked away for the winter, and we didn’t want to drag them outside, turn on the outdoor faucets and freeze the little girl into an ice cycle, I opened the basement window while my husband attached the hose to the laundry tub. We pushed the hose through the window out into our backyard. While my husband went to get Lila from the front yard, I went to turn on the flood light in the back and then went to the linen closet to grab some towels.

Once I saw both of them in the back yard, I couldn’t believe what I saw. I was surprised to see the entire side of Lila’s beautiful black coat smeared with something orange. We’ve never seen her get so covered with anything before.

After I got the thumbs up sign from my husband, I ran downstairs back to the laundry tub, and turned on the water. Lila didn’t mind getting a bath outside even though it was cold out. The water was warm, but I wondered if she was confused as to why we were washing away the treasure she found. She must have been disappointed that we didn’t like her discovery.

20151011_072854Lila after a bath at Lulu & Luigi’s
a few weeks ago.

A few days later, my husband and Lila went down to the park in the light of day to see what it was that Lila had gotten into. Our suspicions were confirmed when he saw two rotting pumpkins sitting in the park hiding among the trunks of towering trees.  We know she likes pumpkin because we give it to her as a treat either frozen with plain yogurt in her Kong or just straight from the can into her food bowl. We were surprised she liked it enough to glide through it with one side of her entire body – especially when it was rotten.

“That’s okay, Lila,” I said. “You needed a bath to be ready for Thanksgiving company.”

Perhaps she just wanted to be a part of all the festivities!

We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures. ~Thornton Wilder

Were You as Shocked as I Was?

As the sun shined down and sat in a perfectly blue sky, I pumped my legs trying to get the swing to go as high as it could. Green leaves from the trees waved to me in the wind as branches swayed back and forth. Stomach muscles felt tight and strong every time I pumped my legs. My hands held tight to both of the chains that held me up. Each time my legs were in front of me on the way up, I saw how the sun had turned them a brown berry color over the summer months. My toes pointed up trying to touch the leaves that were too far to reach. My hair flew back and forth keeping time. I never thought I could go so high!  Then, as the swing and I winded down, I sat still and thought how cool to be able to go so high. As I day dreamed a little more, a splat of something wet hit my leg to bring me back to reality.

On SwingA Different Day on the Swing in November

“What was that?” I thought. I looked down to see a white blob sitting on one of my legs. The offending thing had just missed landing on my new pair of shorts. As I stared at it for a little while, I realized that it looked familiar – something I would have seen on a sidewalk and tried to avoid. A little speck of black surrounded by a white blob had ended up on my leg. Could it be that a bird pooped on me? I looked up at the sky and didn’t see one bird flying or sitting above me. With pockets empty of a handkerchief, I had to leave my swing to search for something to clean up the mess. I quickly found a leaf and scraped away the upsetting gift the bird left on my leg.

Since then, I’ve heard that it’s good luck when a bird poops on you, but I didn’t know that at the time. Back then, I was so shocked and grossed out!  Do you remember the first time a bird pooped on you? Were you as shocked as I was?

Dance of the Season

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A dainty trot and prance is what Lila, our dog, likes to do when we go on walks in the fall. Lila is a black Labrador retriever mixed with Chesapeake Bay retriever (we think). Since we adopted Lila from the Animal Humane Society and there wasn’t a lot of background information, our vet guessed that she’s mixed with Chesapeake Bay retriever.  Doc thought this because she has a large barreled chest, and, when she was younger, her curly fur traveled down the length of her spine. Her happy, affectionate, and quiet temperament must be from her Chesapeake Bay side, and her outgoing, kind, and even-tempered traits must be from her Labrador side. But when we get to the path between the bridge and the main walkway on our way to the preserve, her moves become similar to what a smaller dog would do during a circus act! She lifts her paws trying not to step on the scattered leaves. The texture of the leaves or her fear of there being something underneath must make her afraid to step on them. Lila struggles and tries to place her paws on the dark spots where the leaves aren’t covering the way.

That path doesn’t get maintained like the main path. In the winter, the snow doesn’t get removed, but we manage to walk along without having to trot or prance. Other walkers’ footprints make a pathway. The ones who traveled there before us make a manageable trail. Our footprints help to make a trail too.  When we get to the main path in the fall, Lila relaxes because most of the leaves have been swept away.

Watching her walk among the leaves is like watching her perform a doggy hopscotch. No need for drawing numbered boxes or throwing rocks to play this game.  I guess we’ll never know which side the prancing and trotting comes from.  Maybe it’s just Lila’s own dog dance of the season.  Her rhythm matches the fluttery way fall leaves dance to the ground and how waters of the babbling creek randomly hop over jutting rocks.

Lila’s performance is always something to look forward to this time of year!

Everything in the universe has rhythm. Everything dances. ~Maya Angelou